The cost of housing in Chaffee County is rising, no matter what kind of housing you need. “Thirty eight percent of home owners with a mortgage in Chaffee County are cost burdened, meaning that they spend over 30 percent of their income on housing expenses. In Buena Vista and Salida, that percentage increases to 36 percent of the homeowners, and in Poncha Springs, that number jumps up to 52 percent.
This same cost-burden can be felt by renters, who occupy roughly a quarter of the homes in Chaffee County, about 30 percent of the homes in Buena Vista and Salida, and 43 percent of the homes in Poncha Springs. In fact, the majority of people working in Chaffee County are likely to feel the burden of housing costs if they are also trying to live here. Since 2009, the average rent asked in Chaffee County has increased by 126 percent. In 2016, 24 percent of the rents asked in Chaffee County were more than $3,000 per month, and the average rent asked was $1675. To afford the average rent and not be cost-burdened, the household would need to earn at least $5,025 per month.
However, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 97 percent of the people over the age of 16 who are employed in Chaffee County do not earn that much. In fact, according to the same data-set, if the rent asked in Chaffee County truly reflected the wages being earned here, the average rent would be about $950.
What do these statistics mean to the communities we have chosen to call home? It means that our family, friends, and neighbors are making difficult decisions. They may be considering one parent staying home to offset the cost of childcare, if they are lucky enough to find it. Should they commute from a house outside of the Upper Arkansas Valley, where housing costs might be more affordable? Should they cash out, sell their house to someone who can afford it, and relocate to a new community?
The question for this county is; What will decisions such as these do to the fabric of our community?
The Chaffee County Office of Housing is dedicated to enabling all residents to have access to safe, stable, and affordable housing, and one of the goals in our strategic plan is to offer data collection, analysis, and dissemination. To that end, I will offer brief summaries such as this one, hopefully contributing to a data informed discussion about how we might reverse these trends – or at the very least, prevent them from continuing on their current trajectory. If you’d like to reach me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone is 719-530-2590.
Becky Gray, Director
Chaffee County Office of Housing
Sources:  2018 State of Colorado demographer’s office.  US Census: ACS 2012-2016